A US federal court has cleared five poultry industry executives, including two former CEOs of Pilgrim’s Pride, of price-fixing.

Retired Pilgrim’s Pride CEO Bill Lovette, his successor Jayson Penn, the company’s former sales executive, Roger Austin, plus Claxton Poultry executives Mikell Fries and Scott Brady, were acquitted by a jury in a Denver court on Thursday (7 July) over anti-trust charges brought by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) .

The case – US v. Penn et al – was based on DoJ allegations that the defendants fixed prices from 2012 to 2019 and comes after two previous mistrials and charges being dropped against another five defendants.

The original ten defendants were first indicted in October 2020 following a lengthy federal investigation.

Each defendant was charged with a single count of conspiracy to restrain trade, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

The DoJ had accused the men of helping orchestrate a scheme among the nation’s largest poultry producers to fix prices for chicken sold to restaurant chains and grocery stores.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

After the men were cleared, the DoJ said in a statement: “Although we are disappointed in the verdict, we will continue to vigorously enforce the antitrust laws, especially when it comes to price-fixing schemes that affect core staples.”

Greeley, Colorado-based Pilgrim’s pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges in 2021 and was sentenced to pay US$108m in fines while Tyson, the biggest US chicken producer, said in 2020 it was cooperating in the federal probe, taking advantage of a government policy to grant leniency to companies that are the first to disclose illegal price-fixing.

However, some US media outlets are suggesting the result of the latest trial is a setback for President Joe Biden’s administration’s attempts to tackle rising meat costs, which it blames on an industry that is concentrated in too few hands.